The 15-foot game-winning runner LeBron James kissed off the backboard to drop the Toronto Raptors to 0-3 in the series and ultimately sent Raptors home allegedly had more significant repercussions than just landing the team on TNT’s infamous “Gone Fishin’” segment.
“After the game, [Raptors General Manager Masai] Ujiri stormed into the Raptors dressing room at Quicken Loans—just out of sight of most of the players but not out of earshot—and rebuked Casey in the coach’s office for failing to double-team James,” Michael Grange of SportsNet reported. “Ujiri didn’t reserve his frustration for just Casey—he also tore into the officials in the hallway as well. But observers noted that the intensity was more than typical for Ujiri, who can run hot at the best of times.”
The Raptors got throttled in the following game, and on May 11, Casey was fired after seven seasons with the Raptors. Casey still won Coach of the Year after leading the Raptors to 59 wins during the regular season, but being swept in consecutive years by James’ Cavaliers was ultimately his undoing.
Casey declined to double-team James on what became yet another highlight for LeBron’s postseason highlight reel. That decision and a call to use O.G. Anunoby and C.J. Miles as primary defenders against James were both called into question before and after the Raptors were swept.
“Casey has little feel for how to manipulate matchups and anticipate problems,” wrote Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer in an article entitled “Tyronn Lue Is Running Circles Around Dwane Casey.” “He’s a reactive coach who comes into the series trying to stick with lineups he’s used all season, and then starts scrambling wildly when he’s forced to adjust.”
Those adjustments apparently didn’t come quickly enough, and Casey was shown the door and reportedly given an earful on the way out with one more year and $6.5 million remaining on his contract.